Yesterday, a Pulitzer Prize went to a team of largely unknown reporters Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune based in Mesa, AZ. The prize was for their unflinching coverage of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s local immigration law enforcement under 287(g), its “successes” and its hefty costs for Maricopa County and the nation. Their reporting uncovered the fact that Arpaio’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants sacrificed his unit’s response to emergency calls, contributed to an overtime pay increase which forced the department to close several other sites around the county, and uselessly focused on low-level immigrants who had merely broken a border-crossing law rather than felony or human smuggling charges. Additionally, the five-piece set of articles entitled “Reasonable Doubt” highlighted the racial profiling inherent in Arpaio’s 287(g) campaign. The most common pretext for arresting undocumented immigrants were traffic violations, ranging from speeding (and in some cases “poking” along too slowly), obscured license plates, “unsafe” lane changes, and broken lights.
The key findings of the East Valley Tribune’s report were:
“Deputies are failing to meet the county’s standard for response times on life-threatening emergencies. In 2006 and 2007, patrol cars arrived late two-thirds of the time on more than 6,000 of the most serious calls for service.
MCSO’s arrest rate has plunged the past two years even as the number of criminal investigations has soared.
The sheriff’s “saturation” patrols and “crime suppression/anti-illegal immigration” sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods are done without any evidence of criminal activity, violating federal regulations intended to prevent racial profiling.
Rampant overtime spending on immigration operations drove the agency into financial crisis and forced it to close facilities across the county. Although MCSO officials have said state and federal grants covered all the expense, illegal immigration arrests actually are costing county taxpayers millions of dollars.
Despite the money and manpower expended, the sheriff’s office has arrested only low-level participants in human smuggling rings: drop house guards, drivers and the immigrants they ferry.
Deputies regularly make traffic stops based only on their suspicion that illegal immigrants are inside vehicles. They figure out probable cause after deciding whom to pull over. (“Reasonable Doubt”)
This Pulitzer is priceless, in that Gabrielson and Giblin reported on the extent to which immigrants are human beings and “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As the Department of Justice and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano look into Arpaio’s doings and the general concept of 287(g) [the program which charges local law enforcement officials with enforcing federal laws], this Pulitzer and the ideas it has spurred will undoubtedly play a part in ending these tactics of discrimination and terror.
In another victory for the civil rights of immigrants and anyone yearning for comprehensive immigration reform, last week saw the rival labor federations AFL-CIO and Change to Win go public with a cooperative immigration reform statement. The new accord advocates legalization of some of the nation’s 12 million undocumented individuals and the near abolition of the ad hoc temporary guest-worker programs. Instead, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Change to Win President Joe Hansen have proposed a national commission charged with determining the number of temporary and permanent visas which should be offered annually based on the current American labor markets. Surely, the current temp worker program needs significant overhaul (along with the rest of America’s immigration legislation), in that immigrants sponsored through these programs cannot change jobs, are tied to one employer, and can be refused future labor opportunities for criticizing their sponsoring employer. (Preston, Julia and Steven Greenhouse. “Immigration Accord by Labor Boosts Obama Effort.”)
As I work with migrant farmworkers in Rochester, Plainview, and Owatonna, Minnesota, this summer, I am heartened that these two rival labor federations are articulately and bipartisanly advocating for comprehensive immigration reform in year which the Obama administration promises will see some immigration legislation. Between this unlikely labor collaborative and the expert reporting from Pulitzer Prize winners Gabrielson and Giblin, hopefully compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform got one day closer to realization.
* To protest Arpaio’s tactics and 287(g), please fill out this petition.
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